Chatting to independent publisher, Daunt Books

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As part of my feature on the inaugural Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited those publishers whose books made it through to the shortlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Karen from Daunt Books. I review their contender, Light Box by KJ Orr, here.

An introduction – who are you and what you aim to achieve?

Founded in 2010, the Daunt Books imprint is dedicated to publishing brilliant works by talented authors from around the world. Whether reissuing beautiful new editions of lost classics or publishing debut works by fresh voices, our titles are inspired by the Daunt Books shops themselves and the exciting atmosphere of discovery to be found in a good bookshop. With our roots as a travel bookshop, we aim to publish narratives with a strong sense of place.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

When I started in publishing it was 2008 and everyone was terrified eBooks were going to destroy the publishing industry and bookshops. They’ve certainly had an effect, but it hasn’t been nearly as extreme as first thought. I also think the books being published today are more diverse than they were a decade ago. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but it’s good to see a broader range of books from authors with varied backgrounds and experiences. 

Your experience of prize listings – what are the costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

We don’t have a huge list to begin with and many of our titles aren’t eligible for prizes because they’re reissues, but for titles that are eligible, we submit them for all the prizes we possibly can. Our author KJ Orr won the BBC Short Story Award last year and it’s been great for her collection, Light Box. For us, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

We’ve been steadily growing since we started in 2010, and we’ll continue to grow. We’d like to commission more translations in the future, and continue to publish both original titles and re-discovered classics.

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Click on the book cover above to check out what others are saying about Light Box. You may also wish to buy the book.

Book Review: Light Box

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Light Box, by K.J. Orr, is a collection of eleven short stories exploring the multitudinous ripples caused by people as they interact and react to life’s experiences. The writing is vivid and sharply felt. As each of the characters is affected by the actions of others and their surroundings there is a shift in perceptions, be it a realisation of regret or the understated recognition of required change.

In The Inland Sea two brothers skip school to set out on an adventure. Although no strangers to personal loss they have lived a sheltered life within a close community. Recent visitors from abroad expanded their vision and now they can envisage a wider world than they have known thus far. They do not yet comprehend the potential cost of broadening their horizons seeing only the beauty and excitement of new experience.

The Shallows and Blackout look at the impact of small decisions made by young people which have far reaching effects, not only on themselves. Although not dwelling on how they cope with any regrets there is a knowledge that life has many such ‘what if’ situations and that even inadvertent wrongs cannot be undone, becoming hard to forget.

Disappearances and The Ice Cream Song is Strange offer perspectives from those approaching the latter stages of their lives when what they have made for themselves, what seemed important, is somehow stripped back and laid bare offering a discomforting insight on what they are and what could have been.

“What do you do when you stop? When you have been up and running for such a long time, what is it you do? When you’re used to a schedule that takes care of each second of the day? When there is no goal?”

In several stories the dislocation of travel is explored, both the getting away and the return. There is the seeking out of an expected satisfaction that may prove difficult to attain. There is the repulsion felt when personal space is invaded.

By the Canal and The Island present young men acting in ways that cause their partners to view them in a new light. How they are subsequently perceived is altered; going forward requires a change of direction. Partners are chosen based on an image created by the beholder which will always be at risk unknown by the beheld.

The snapshots of each life look at what is shown to the world, what is hidden and what seeps out anyway. The stories are intricate webs of emotion as much as action. They speak of the shifting sands of each protagonist’s inner thoughts and how these are shaped by the ripples caused by those they meet.

The writing is subtle, precise and elegantly put together. Each tale offers a clarity of thought that demands careful contemplation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each work and especially what it revealed about wider peoples. This is a recommended read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Daunt Books.